The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat on back-to-back nights

There is nothing quite like a high school football game on a cool (but not cold, please) fall evening.

Driving up to the stadium as the sun begins to set, you notice the stadium lights that lead you to the field where so many dreams go to live – and die. Approaching from the parking lot, you can hear the band making its way from the school and see the boys on the field going through their pre-game warmups.I feel lucky to be covering high school football games – getting back to what I used to do over 30 years ago and feeling so fortunate to be able to do it again after all this time.

I spent last Thursday and Friday nights where I have been spending them for the past eight weeks – watching high school football.

Last week’s games were unique, however. On both nights, I covered four teams who were all looking for their first victory of the season. The Booker T. Washington Lions traveled to Bossier Memorial Stadium on Thursday to take on the Bearkats while Plain Dealing made the trip to Magnolia School of Excellence on Friday.

There are not a lot of guarantees in life, but there were two certainties on each of these nights – when the game clock wound down to 00:00, a joyous celebration would break out on the field by one team while the other would have to wait at least another week to enjoy the taste of that long-anticipated first victory.

BTW head coach Tony Reliford was subjected to an ice-cold bath from his players following the Lions’ 34-32 victory over Bossier in their District 1-4A battle and emerged from the celebration with a relieved – and happy – look on his face. And it was not an easy win as the back-and-forth battle came down to the final possession of the game.

“Playoffs, coach,” BTW freshman wide receiver La’Darrius Frierson said as he passed Reliford.

“One step at a time,” responded the Lions’ coach.

There was no cold bath for Magnolia coach Toriano Williams following the Mariners’ 34-12 District 1-1A victory over Plain Dealing, but there was celebrating.

After the players and coaches congratulated each other and sang the Alma Mater, I sat down with DeAndre and brother DeVondre Johnson to get their reaction to the victory.

“This is just the beginning,” said DeAndre Johnson, who caught 70- and 29-yard touchdown passes from Mark McCray in the rout of Plain Dealing. “This makes us believe we can beat whoever we face. This will build us up and make us tougher.”

It was younger brother DeVondre’s 62-yard touchdown catch on Magnolia’s first play from scrimmage that got the scoring going for the Mariners, who led 28-0 at the half.

“It feels good,” said DeVondre Johnson. “This is just going to make us work harder and stay focused.”

For D’Aumante Johnson and Clint Walker, it was a different story. Their players were hoping they would be the ones doing the celebrating.

“It hurt,” said Johnson, the Bossier coach whose team hasn’t tasted victory since the final game of the 2021 regular season. “Our offense didn’t play well. We’re going to have to make some changes offensively.”

There wasn’t much more to say.

“We’re our own worst enemy,” said Walker, the Plain Dealing coach who is fielding a team of only 15 players. “Any normal team would not have to play their players in all three phases (offense, defense, and special teams).”

These four teams went into Week 7 looking for their first victory of the season, but only two could come out victorious.

Just doesn’t seem fair.

Contact Harriet at sbjharriet@gmail.com